spacer search
Facilitating a local and worldwide synergy of suppliers, builders, architects, planners, educators, and visionaries committed to Creating a Sustainable Future for ourselves and generations to come
Main Menu
Contact Us
About Us
Home arrow Blog arrow 5/10/08-Solar Industry Needs Workers

5/10/08-Solar Industry Needs Workers PDF Print E-mail
Written by David R. Baker   
Sunday, 11 May 2008
California's fascination with solar power has created thousands of jobs in the state and will probably add thousands more, according to a new survey of the industry.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

California's fascination with solar power has created thousands of jobs in the state and will probably add thousands more, according to a new survey of the industry.

The survey, by two community college researchers, estimates that solar companies in California now employ between 16,500 and 17,500 people and may hire another 5,000 in the next year.

Many of those new jobs will be in the Bay Area. The region already has between 6,900 and 8,000 solar jobs and could add 1,900 more in the next 12 months, the researchers found.

Most of the job opportunities will be on the roof, not in the lab. The industry desperately needs people to install rooftop solar arrays, as more Californians plant photovoltaic panels on their homes. And that represents a great opportunity for community colleges, whose students could be prime candidates for the work, said survey co-author John Carrese. The industry also has openings for designers and salespeople.

"You don't need a Ph.D. or a B.A. to get into this industry," Carrese said. "It's an opportunity to rebuild the working-class jobs that have been lost."

Salaries vary by the type of job and the level of experience. Entry-level solar installers, for example, make a median salary of $31,200 per year, while their more seasoned colleagues earn $60,000. Experienced solar designers and engineers earn a median salary of $83,000.

"These are good jobs," Carrese said. "You can support a family on them."

Carrese heads one of the California community college system's Centers of Excellence, offices that study the employment needs of industries and help the schools tailor their classes to match. Carrese is at City College of San Francisco, while co-author Jennifer Oliver directs the Center of Excellence at West Valley College in Saratoga.

Together, they surveyed 212 solar companies across the state, 77 of them in the Bay Area. They asked how many employees each company has, how many each plans to add and the skills required. Because California's solar industry includes an estimated 772 companies, the authors had a consulting firm use statistical models to extrapolate the statewide employment estimates.

They found a fast-growing industry in need of trained workers. Three-fourths of the companies surveyed said they plan to hire within the next year, and 4 out of 5 said they are having a hard time finding experienced people with the right skills.

"There is a shortage," said Tom McCalmont, chief executive officer of REgrid Power in Campbell. "By definition, solar is a new industry, so there aren't many experienced workers."

His company, which designs and installs solar systems, employs 60 people and could hire 40 more. With the housing industry in a slump because of the mortgage crisis, many of the company's job applicants have construction experience but don't know their way around a solar panel.

"We're probably the only construction trade that's actually growing right now," said McCalmont.

That's where the community colleges come in.

Five Bay Area community colleges already offer courses in solar installation, according to the survey, and three others plan to follow suit. The schools anticipate that they'll need to beef up those offerings, adding classes that cover topics beyond installation, and can train people with a little construction experience or none at all. The survey will help the schools figure out which courses to add.

"Before we put our effort and resources into developing a new program, we have to make sure the jobs are there," said Kitty O'Doherty, who coordinates energy-related workforce programs among the Bay Area's community colleges.

San Jose City College opened a solar-installation class in March at the suggestion of a solar industry trade group chaired by McCalmont. Twenty-two students immediately signed up, said Kathy Werle, dean of applied science and technology at the school.

"We offered it with no advertising whatsoever and filled the class," she said. "The challenge for us is going to be to identify a full package of courses because what we're seeing is students are coming to us with a spectrum of knowledge."

The survey's results come with one important caveat. Growth in the solar industry will depend on government programs that have spurred interest in solar power. If the federal government, for example, does not extend a tax credit for solar installations, the industry won't add as many jobs as it otherwise would have.

"There's a number of question marks, although the industry is optimistic and looking to hire people," Carrese said.

Green Building Resources
Buildin Design & Construction
Common Sense Design, resource page
Environmental Building News
Frank Lloyd Wright
Get into Green, at the National Building Musem
Green Affordable Housing
Green Building Community.Com
Green Sage
International Initiative for sustainable built environment
LEED for Homes, energy certification from the USGBC
List of recycled building products from the Ca.Integratd waste management board
Marin County Green Building Program
Marin Max Reuse
National Renewable Energy Labratory Homepage
Oikos Green Building Source

(C) 2023
Joomla! is Free Software released under the GNU/GPL License.